mikelemmer's Wizorb (PC) review

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Mistaken for Lost NES Classic

Download Size: 250 MB

Time Played: 3.7 hrs.

Number of Stages: 68+

Average Number of Lives: 13

What I'd Pay: $7

Steam Price (3/20/12): $3

Here's something fun to do with Wizorb: boot it up and wait for someone to walk by. When they ask what you're playing, say you're playing a rare old game on an NES emulator. See if they can tell that you're BSing them. Not only did the creators nail the NES look & sound (while giving it very responsive mouse controls), but they also made an Arkanoid clone that is, in my opinion, second only to Shatter.

Slimes are mandatory in these games.
Slimes are mandatory in these games.

In Wizorb, you use a bouncing magic orb and a ricochet wand to destroy enemies and break blocks. If the orb flies past your wand into the bottom of the screen, you lose a life. Once you destroy every enemy and block on a stage, you advance to the next one. The longer the ball's in play, the faster it moves and the harder it gets to keep it out of the hole. Luckily, you have several spells and powerups to keep it in play or destroy stubborn blocks. The spells require MP, the powerups require money; you get both from powerups dropped by blocks, but there's also curses lurking in the blocks that can steal gold, magic, slow you down or kill you outright. In addition, there's bosses, side paths, a destroyed town that needs some large donations to rebuild, and even multiple endings; it's quite involved for an Arkanoid clone.

It's the spells that make the game; you have 5 different spells you can use, but they all share the same mana pool. Sure, you can spend a third of it to turn your orb into a Fireball that plows through blocks for a few seconds, but will that prevent you from casting a Wind spell to save it from the pit later? Learning when to use them is just as important as nailing the ball's rebound angle, and provided just enough variety to keep me playing until the end.

Wait, did I step into a game of Monster Party?
Wait, did I step into a game of Monster Party?

The levels also have just enough variance in feel, graphics, and music not to get old (unless you get stuck on one of them). Only 1 level had poor music, and it was more than made up for by the creeply look & sounds of the next level. I have to give special props to the bosses as well; each one had attacks and defenses that weren't too different from the rest of the game, but still required a bit of thought to beat. I was honestly enthusiastic about facing each new boss, rather than wary about a complete change in how the game's played for one fight.

Porting this game to PC has given it such tight & smooth mouse controls that I couldn't bear playing it on the Xbox now. It's an easy thing, but it's very appreciated and almost mandatory for a game like this. (I once tried to play Shatter on a moderately-low framerate computer; it didn't end well.) It never felt like it was the game's fault I died.

The other parts of the game, like the town rebuilding and the side paths, are lackluster, but the core gameplay's so good I really didn't care. At least they give you a reason to replay some of the older levels and see if you can do better on them.

Is this review a bit short? Perhaps, but Wizorb is a short, well-made game that packs in a lot of retro goodness for a small price. If you have any fondness for Arkanoid, pick this up.

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